The Government has made not just the country but our ‘Ratnas’ or jewels also look silly

As if the ponderous and puerile statement issued by the MEA in response to Rihanna’s tweet and ministers falling over each other to join the chorus was not enough, our celebs also now look silly

(L-R) Sachin Tendulkar, Lata Mangeshkar and Akshay Kumar
(L-R) Sachin Tendulkar, Lata Mangeshkar and Akshay Kumar

Sujata Anandan

I had not expected our country to become a laughing stock of the world in just seven years and the Indian Government looking foolish and that it would be seen by the world as a tinpot dictatorship. But as if its mishandling of the farmers’ protests was not enough, what disappoints me even more is how they reacted to tweets from three young women - Meena Harris, Rihanna and Greta Thunberg - about human rights violations in India.

Those single line statements should have been ignored by any government, democratic or dictatorial. For governments respond to other governments, not private individuals. Governments are always above celebrities, whatever their status or opinions but the manner in which the Modi government not only issued a ponderous but puerile statement and pressed into action a slew of Indian celebrities from Lata Mangeshkar to Sachin Tendulkar, besides the usual suspects like Akshay Kumar, to react to those tweets was disappointing.

Firstly, if the violation of human rights in India were actually an internal matter of the country, then Narendra Modi should never have reacted to or tweeted against the insurrection at Capitol Hill in Washington DC on January 6. Then, again, these very celebrities now tweeting against Rihanna and the others should never have voiced their opinions on the killing of George Floyd by cops in the US. Both times, I never saw the US government react with such vehemence and say that reactions to Capitol Hill insurrection amounted to interference in their internal affairs.

But even more disappointing than our government's reaction, has been the willingness of the celebrities to blindly kowtow to the government line and copy-paste their reactions from a common template. But, I guess, I am not as cynical as I had presumed myself to be if I was really disappointed by them. I should not have been, for much of the veils about their heroic status had been drawn from my eyes years ago.

I noticed social media trolled Sachin Tendulkar the most and also exposed his attempts to declare himself an actor (because he acted in a few advertisements) rather than a cricketer to save on his taxes. But Sachin had ceased to be my hero years ago when, while reporting on the Hansie Cronje match-fixing fiasco in the 1990s, a top Mumbai cop showed me evidence of the complicity of the then entire India side in the racket.

“There are only two cricketers who play for the country and not for money or themselves,” he told me. “Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid. The underworld is afraid of approaching these two for they never know when they will raise a shindig about it.” Ganguly and Dravid had not gained the captaincy at the time and Tendulkar had been more popular. When I asked the cop why he had been left out of the list of those who play for the country, he kept a poker face and said, “Because he plays only for himself.”

I will not mention here the details he shared for that presumption but, in later years, I noticed Tendulkar did not stand by Ganguly, who was being humiliated by India coach Greg Chappel and realised why the cop had said he played only for himself and sucked up to all the authorities. So, I should not be surprised that he should take a Bharat Ratna from the UPA and then kowtow to the NDA when it came to power to such an extent that he lost all residual respect and admiration people like me have had for him after he challenged the Thackerays on their outsider and anti-Muslim policies during the UPA years.

But why am I blaming Tendulkar for being unable to keep his spine? Look at how the BJP has got to Sourav Ganguly after the Mumbai cops identified him as one of only two Indian cricketers who would play for the country and not for self-interest! Of late, Ganguly seems to be under severe pressure to root for the ruling dispensation which uses everything from the Income Tax department to the Enforcement Directorate and saam, daam, dand, bhed to get their detractors to fall in line. These celebrities are vulnerable after all.

But while they may use all these measures against their opponents and generate outrage in most of us, I cringed with shame and embarrassment when Delhi police set out to file a First Information Report against environment activist Greta Thunberg for conspiring against India by tweeting on the farmers' issue. Obviously, they could not have done that without government support and I wondered when and if they are planning to proceed to Sweden to handcuff her and bring her back to India. That should definitely make the world sit up and take notice of India as the newest banana republic on the block and that is when I realised I did not know whether to laugh or cry for my country.

But I definitely laughed when I found some BJP bigots give Greta Thunberg a Muslim origin (apparently, she is Kashmiri, for how else will they explain away her fair skin?) and was later adopted by a Swedish couple. And I definitely laughed until my stomach ached when I found a group calling themselves Hindu Americans warning US Vice president Kamala Harris that they were withdrawing support from her for her niece Meena Harris' tweets on India. Firstly, I wonder if that group realises that their support to Harris counted for nothing for it was too little (Weren’t they rooting for Trump?) and, secondly, presuming it still means much, she is already in office. I always knew bhakts were dumb but that even those who had enough intelligence to make it to the US should also be intellectually challenged never ceases to surprise.

But they should now know that whether with regard to the Harris women, Rihanna, Greta or the protesting farmers, the ruling dispensation has completely lost its moorings.

Nevertheless, in the meantime, they are bent upon making us look like a nation of jokers and buffoons with the powerful duo the top bananas of us all!

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